By Milo Moran
It’s awful to know that since 1960 there have been no major advances in anxiety medication. As reported by Gair Rhydd in September of 2018, 25% of people worldwide will have a mental health issue during their life, and 1 billion people suffer from neurological disorders, with around 6.8 million dying from them every year, it is clear that research is urgently needed, and Cardiff will soon be at the forefront of medical innovation.
The cutting-edge Medicines Discovery Institute cost £14 million, funded by both the Welsh Government and the European Union, and will be tasked with finding new drugs to treat both mental health and central nervous system conditions. Housed within the School of Biosciences, the centre will also be a place to inspire students and train future research scientists. The Education Minister Kirsty Williams said that “Investing in new scientific research is vital to our universities and the long-term health of the wider Welsh economy.”
Finding anxiety medications was the subject of a major £3.5 million investment from the Medical Research Council. There are two major classes of anti-anxiety drugs: Monoamine-altering drugs (SSRIs like Prozac and sertraline) and Benzodiazepines (Valium and its derivatives). Since the 1960s all new drugs fall into one of these classes, and many of them can affect concentration or even cause your emotions to feel dulled. There are hopes that novel therapies might result in less-severe side-effects.
The MRC has also funded the team to develop medical options for people with fragile X syndrome, the most common genetic cause of learning disabilities. Fragile X is caused by low levels of a protein called FMRP, which influences the formation of dendritic spines – parts of nerve cells that allow them to better communicate with each other. Low FMRP makes it harder for the brain to develop memory and learning, and Cardiff scientists believe that medications which affect this protein may make a huge difference to the lives of sufferers and their families.
Director of the Institute, Professor Simon Ward, said “Patients are at the centre of the vision for our institute. Our ultimate aim is to reduce the impact on patients, families and society”, and that they intend to work with scientists “across Cardiff University to address other unmet medical needs”.